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Draper • The city's $29 million recreation center bond is all wet, declared the Utah Taxpayers Association at a news conference Monday staged at Cowabunga Bay water park.
Vice President Royce Van Tassell, joined by several area business owners, said the taxpayers association opposes the June 26 ballot measure for two reasons: Bond elections should take place in November, and taxpayers in Draper shouldn't be taxed twice for recreation.
"Voter turnout in November elections is between two and eight times higher than June elections," Van Tassel said. "Putting this bond on the June election should offend every Draper taxpayer."
Additionally, he said, Salt Lake County already plans to build a rec center in the city in 2016. Approving the city's general-obligation bond means Draper residents, who also pay county taxes, would be paying for two rec centers, he said. Besides, he continued, the county "already provides abundant recreation opportunities in and around Draper," in pools, parks, trails and other nearby rec centers.
The City Council, which has been considering a rec center for a few years, voted April 10 to hold a special bond election during the June 26 primary. In a survey commissioned by the city, 72 percent of residents said they are willing to pay additional tax to build a rec center, but Van Tassell takes issue with the survey, saying the city wasn't forthright on all the facts.
If voters approve the measure, the city says, homeowners would have to hand over an extra $108 a year in property tax for 20 years, based on an average Draper assessed home value of $348,740. According to the taxpayers association, that's a 31 percent increase. Operating costs, subsidized by taxpayers, would total $1.5 million a year, according to the city, but it predicts the center will break even with revenue it generates.
Businesses will also have to pay up: an average of $197 a year, according to the city, just one reason that Cowabunga Bay owner and General Manager Shane Huish opposes the bond. His primary concern, though, is competition: An indoor rec center, likely to have pools, would compete against his water park, in which he says he has invested $10 million.
"We invested… in Draper because we trusted Draper was a good place to do business," he said. "Now they want to raise our taxes so they can put us out of business."
Another business owner, Chrissane Sueltz, of Studio 603 Salon, said the timing is all wrong because of the recession. As a small-business owner, she said, she feels "betrayed, hurt, puzzled" by the city's proposal to raise property taxes at this time.
According to Draper's website, now is the time to build because interest rates and construction costs are low.
City Councilmen Jeff Stenquist, who attended the news conference, said the council weighed the pros and cons of June and November, opting for June because, among other reasons, "there's a lot of things going on in November, and we were afraid we might get lost a little bit in the noise."
As for Salt Lake County's plan to build its own rec center, Stenquist said there are no plans and no guarantee the county will have funds for a rec center.
The Draper City Council will meet Tuesday to discuss moving the $29 million rec center bond election to November.